JTA: Address learning deficiencies!
Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
DR POLLY Bowes-Howell, chairman of the Jamaica Teachers' Association's Special Education Committee, has said children should be assessed to identify learning deficiencies before they are admitted to basic or primary schools.
Bowes-Howell told The Gleaner that the screening would serve to identify students who would have developed what she termed as "delays" and could benefit from early intervention programmes.
"From the screening which we have done over the years under the VOUCH (Voluntary Organisation for the Upliftment of Children) project, no child should be entering grade one or the basic school without having a screening done - vision, hearing and health checks," Bowes-Howell said.
Bowes-Howell said the early intervention would eliminate many of the problems now being faced in the classrooms as some teachers struggle with children who require special attention.
"Having said that, no child should be entering the school system without the relevant data ... meaning that after they have been assessed, the data would let you know where the child is at, the interest of the child, and the readiness level of the particular child," the special-education specialist said.
Bowes-Howell is also advocating for the continuous assessment of students in the primary- school system, as, according to her, many are not performing up to standard and seemingly not being able to manage the curriculum.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said the early-childhood intervention programme, which starts in September, would begin to address screening of children before they enter schools.
The VOUCH centre (based in Kingston) will be the first assessment and treatment centre, which has been fully equipped and staffed for the early-childhood cohort to deal with what Bowes-Howell has advocated.
"We believe the earlier any challenge is identified and treated, it is more likely for us to treat it and the least expensive it would be to treat it," said Thwaites.
Thwaites also indicated that 12,000 students were assessed at the University of the West Indies this year under the Alternative Secondary Transition Education Programme. He also noted that there is a national committee in place to oversee the streaming of special-education students when they are thought to be in that category.